Jun 30, 2013

Magical Plants of Bosnia and Herzegovina

The unbreakable bond of man and nature is best explained with one Bogomil legend. Sine God created man out of earth, he left him to dry in the sun and went to get the soul which will breathe life into the earthen body. Seeing the earthen creature, the devil used the moment of gods absence to poke 41 holes in the body and escaping. When god returned and blew the soul through the nostrils it went out through the holes that the devil poked. At that moment realising what kind of prank the devil played, he healed all the holes with the help of herbs, except one hole. This hole was determined for the soul's exit after death. Giving life to the human, god explained which herbs he placed inside his body, and in that sense revealing to him which herb heals which part of the body. That's why in folk medicine in BIH this number was always taken to set how long a certain tea needs to be consumed, how long to apply an ointment or something similar.
How much the Bogomil tradition was influential in traditional medicine is confirmed by the following recipe for various diseases. One would pick 40 types of herbs and store them in an earthen pot which would be filled with clean spring water. The pot would be sealed shut and buried to stay there for 40 days. After that the water from the pot would have to be drunk during 40 days since it was considered to be a panacea or medicine for all afflictions. According to traditional instructions, each morning on an empty stomach one would drink an amount of mixture that could fit in a small fildžan (traditional coffee cup).
Verem (Calamintha officinalis) - this Bosnian name for this plant comes from a Turkish word for sorrow and is traditionally used for treating the disease behind which lies depression.
Verem was used to make tea which was drunk by people who felt sorrow or melancholy. Especially susceptible to depression in the past were women of various age to whom it was suggested to drink tea from Verem and to go to a creek or river every day and dragging a cloth across the surface of the water to utter: "O dear water if you only knew how I felt" she would confide to the water and listen to the calming sound which would psychologically calm and relax them.
Stravna trava (Glechoma hederacea) in the ritual of fear elimination or another type of shock which appeared after a traumatic experience this plant was used. Stravarke, traditional Bosnian healers, boiled it in a vessel with water sometimes adding pieces of bread. When the water started to boil stravarka would, holding an empty pan, pour the boiling water above the head of the diseased into this pan along with the plant and she would flip that vessel upside down to create a vacuum in order for the fluids to return into the vessel. After the water cooled the diseased person would use it to wash his face and to drink it and the rest was thrown outside usually on the road or a cross road.
Still today most Bosnian herb healers are familiar with the effects of Stravna herb which in combination with time yields amazing results in depression treatment, treating anxiety and stress. According to the recipe of Ajla Jusupović from Foča a pinch of Verem and Strava herb is used and poured over with hot water. The vessel is covered and left to stand there for half an hour until it cools. The tea should be drunk three times a day, sweetened with honey.
Holly herbs of Bosnian paganism
Visibaba (Galanthus) since ancient times among the Bosnian folk this herb is named Baba or Grandma which alluded to dedication of this spring herb to the old deity Baba or old lady, ancient mother goddess. In the preserved writings of Bosnian ritual witchcraft this herb was used to remove sleepiness and spring fatigue from men, especially children. A stem of snowdrop (visibaba) would be circled three times around a person's head, clockwise, uttering " Snowdrop is sleeping and you're not, snowdrop is sad and you're happy!".
Baba or Grandma (Galanthus)
Heavenly husband and Baba's retainer is Did or old man, ancient sun god, to whom a plant has been dedicated in the south-western part of Bosnia by the name of Did or Silymarin. The plant was tabooed and holly which proves the folk belief that it shouldn't be trampled. The one who does so, will befall an accident.    
Did (Silymarin)